Nine days after Fiona, P.E.I. residents without power alarmed at pace of response

CHARLOTTETOWN — Residents of Prince Edward Island said Monday they're growing exhausted, anxious and cold as thousands remained without power nine days after post-tropical storm Fiona swept through the region.

Wanda Arnold, a 70-year-old resident of Huntingdon Court seniors complex in Charlottetown, said in an interview she and other residents have been given blankets, but at night they've been shivering in the dark.

"People don't have anything to do. They're bored, they're cold. It went down to -2 C last night. There's people in this building that don't have too much meat on their bones and they're freezing," she said.

Arnold also said the complex's operators had dropped off food and small flashlights, but the assistance had been sporadic and insufficient.

As of Monday evening, there were still over 16,000 customers on the Island without power. On the day after the storm, private utility Maritime Electric had indicated there were 82,000 customers without power — a number that represented about 90 per cent of its customers.

Peter Bevan-Baker, leader of the Opposition Green Party, said he has questions about why the restoration is taking so long. "It's been frustratingly slow. Ten days in with the temperatures we've seen and will continue to see, this is a public health and human safety issue."

Kim Griffin, a spokeswoman for Maritime Electric, said Monday that most of the Island should have power back by Sunday.

Senior homes are on the "priority list," she said, saying the main reason for the delay was trees falling on the utility's infrastructure.

"We're not looking for praise at all," she said. "We just want to get the job done for you and get your power back on."

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said his government has been attempting to obtain temporary generators for common areas in the provincial seniors complexes without power.

"I think that we're learning a lot about ourselves in a difficulty like this and hopefully (we can) use that to be prepared in the future," he said.

Kylee Graham, who hasn't had power at her Charlottetown apartment since 1 a.m. on Sept. 24, said life is increasingly difficult as she and her partner cope with cooling temperatures and a lack of heat or light in their unit.

The 26-year-old doctoral student at the Atlantic Veterinary College is also a volunteer with the Charlottetown Mutual Aid, and says she is encountering seniors and homeless people whose situation is worse than her own.

"It makes me very angry that there's not more being done ... I think the government could be doing more but instead it's up to us to help these folks and I don't think that is OK," she said in an interview on Monday.

Graham and Arnold say they believe that more repair crews should have been available from the utility to restore the outages.

"I can't believe there's been so little help here. This is seniors and this is not acceptable," said Arnold. "They knew this storm was coming and they were ill prepared."

Chad Stordy of Charlottetown said on Monday that the temperature at his house read 11 C in the middle of the day, as his family went another day without electricity.

He said he and his partner Kelsey Creed have two children, aged three and nine, both of whom had colds and a fever.

"I'm upset," Stordy said from his home, as his three-year-old cuddled with Creed, and the nine-year-old watched a generator-powered television.

"I can't bring them outside. I can't bring them to a warming center because they're sick and I'd risk getting other people sick," he said. "So, we're kind of in one of those weird spots where there's not a lot we can do other than call Maritime Electric to be told: 'Sorry. It's probably still gonna be days.'"

Stordy said better estimates on restoration time would have allowed him to plan to leave the province temporarily, avoiding the days of chilly temperatures and discomfort.

Meanwhile, in Nova Scotia, the power utility reported that there were still about 20,000 customers without power. The figures have steadily fallen since the original figures of 415,000 were reported on the day after the storm.

More than 1,500 people, including power line technicians, damage assessors, forestry technicians and field support are still on the ground in Nova Scotia, with the majority in the northeast and eastern parts of the province.

— By Michael Tutton in Halifax and Hina Alam in Fredericton.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2022.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said it had been 10 days since the storm came through the region.